10 Ways to Protect Your Brain Against Alzheimer’s

The HealthCentral Editorial Team | Jun 14th 2013

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As dementia and Alzheimer’s disease become more and more common, researchers continue to look for ways to treat the condition and maybe one day prevent it from occurring. But according to some research, there may be steps you can take now to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

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Eat the right foods

Try to eat foods that are packed with nutrients and low in saturated fat, trans fats and sodium. Fish, chicken and nuts have been found to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Research suggests that a diet high in antioxidants also has protective effects against Alzheimer’s.

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Get moving

Recent studies have found that physical activity can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or prevent it all together. People who are in good overall health reduce their risk of many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, but exercise specifically increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.

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Keep your heart healthy

The risk of developing Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia increases significantly in people with damaged hearts or blood vessels. This damage is often caused by common chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

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Control your blood pressure

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology found that people who controlled their high blood pressure with medication had significantly less accumulated beta-amyloid plaque on their brains–a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s–than people who did not control their blood pressure.

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Watch your head

A significant amount of research has linked several kinds of dementia to head trauma. Most of this research focuses on the growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other brain ailments in former professional athletes, but any kind of head trauma can increase the risk of dementia.

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Chill out

Excessive stress can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It can also speed the advancement of Alzheimer’s if you do have it. Why? A recent Swedish study found that chronic stress elevates a specific steroid that can inhibit the proper functioning of the brain.

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The power of wine

Several studies indicate that resveratrol, found in foods such as red wine and dark chocolate, can protect against Alzheimer’s disease. However, you’d have to consume a lot of wine to reap its benefits. Scientists are working on a revesterol supplement so people can reap its benefits without destroying their liver.

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Use it or lose it

If you want strong muscles, you need to train them. If you want a sharp brain, you must challenge it. Read books, work on crossword puzzles or take continuing education classes. Anything to keep your mind engaged and challenged will help keep your brain healthy.

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Be sociable

Just as life-long learning keeps the brain sharp, regular social interaction can also stimulate it in a way that delays or even prevents the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Try combining brain challenges with social interaction. Take classes with friends, join a book club or start a weekly game night party.

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Set a bedtime

Your body uses sleeping hours to recharge and solidify memories. Disruptions in sleep can wreak havoc on the brain and lead to conditions such as obesity, hypertension, stroke and impaired reasoning, all of which can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.